Physician-Assisted Suicide in Psychiatry: Developments in the Netherlands

Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 6 (2):175 (1997)
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Abstract

For more than two decades euthanasia and assisted suicide have been openly debated in the Netherlands. This development started in 1973 when the Regional Court in Leeuwarden decided a case in which a physician had administered a deadly dose of morphine to her terminally ill mother on the mother's serious and persistent request. In this case the court concluded that the average Dutch physician no longer considered it his or her duty to prolong a patient's life under all circumstances. The court accepted that in specific cases a physician is allowed to prevent serious and irreversible suffering, even if the patient's life is short ened. This case was the first in which a legal opening for euthanasia or assisted suicide was created. In this specific case the physician was formally declared guilty, but the court gave her a suspended sentence of one week imprisonment. This decision started a debate on euthanasia and assisted suicide throughout all levels of Dutch society

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